By the time Abbie Hoffer, 19, returned to the spot where she’d parked her car, it was already gone. She was at a beach just outside of her Harrisburg, Pennsylvania hometown, and YouTube blogger Hank Green vowed to help her catch the culprit. After calling the police, he hung up the phone, looked her straight in the eye and told her the mind-boggling truth: pirates had stolen her car.
Lucky for Hoffer, it was all a dream.
“I just remember waking up, walking outside and seeing my car there because I hadn’t driven it in a couple of weeks, and I was just like, ‘Why? Why is that a thing I’m stressed out about?’ ” Hoffer said.
Hoffer has been having dreams like that just about every night since quarantine began, up from the two dreams she was used to having per week before the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers and analysts have said that these vivid quarantine dreams, or “quarandreams,” are meant to help us adapt and have a sense of connection with others while we’re apart from friends and family.
As states are relaxing shelter-in-place restrictions, for many, these feature film-like dreams still continue.
Deirdre Barrett, a dream researcher at Harvard University, started a quarantine dream survey in late March and has received more than 8,000 dream entries. Since the Black Lives Matter demonstrations after the death of George Floyd, Barrett says many people have had dreams that intermix the issues of the national protests with COVID-19 concerns. Lately, she’s received fewer surveys about dreams of being infected and more dreams related to the lockdown’s secondary effects, such as anxieties surrounding being furloughed or homeschooling kids. For teens submitting surveys, their dreams have the same themes they’ve had since the beginning of the pandemic.
“While other groups were dreaming even more about the virus, teenagers were dreaming about things that had to do with their schools suddenly dismissing, or not seeing any of their friends or not being able to go out to [a] club,” Barrett said. With so much reporting about young people being less likely to get sick, it’s maybe no surprise their dreams are more focused on the rules.
That was the case for a 19-year-old Australian woman who filled out Barrett’s survey. In her dream, the woman threw a party in her apartment even though her friends told her that it wasn’t allowed. A group of secret agents broke in during the party, and the dreamer realized that she’d made a big mistake. She woke up feeling like she needed to take lockdown measures more seriously moving forward, Barrett says.
Even though Hoffer’s dream featured a famous appearance, Barrett says that despite an increase in streaming, she’s seen fewer celebrity cameos than those she received in pre-pandemic surveys, especially in young people’s dreams. Instead, these roles are replaced by more friends and family.
“Being separated from their peers is a bigger deal,” Barrett said. “The younger you are, the longer one month or six months seem. … Those things are affecting them more.”
That’s true for Da’Vie Guzman, 23, who had to cancel her girls’ trip to Las Vegas because of the pandemic. She had a dream where she and her friends took a trip to Miami instead, but she could hardly enjoy it.
“I was having anxiety on the beach because there were so many people there. … It felt so real,” Guzman said.
As the pandemic stretches into the summer months, Guzman admits that it’s gotten harder to remember some of her dreams, and they don’t happen nearly as frequently as they used to. She tries to keep a dream journal, and she vaguely remembers recent dreams that feature people from her past that she doesn’t talk to anymore in real life. In those dreams, she checks how they’re doing during the COVID-19 crisis and asks if they are OK.
“Things that happen in my dreams either happen in real life, or they’re a reflection of something in my life that I have feelings about that I probably have hid or something,” Guzman said. “With the coronavirus, I feel like it was more so that I needed to become more educated on it to be less afraid of it, you know?”